Pregnant women, you see. All these women I know who are pregnant.
And me? Well, we've been trying for nine months now to conceive number four, and it's just not happening.
I am beginning to understand what the infertile women mean when they say that it hurts to hear about other women's pregnancies.
I realize I can't be classified as "infertile" (not yet, anyway). I realize I am incredibly blessed with the three healthy, intelligent, amazing, beautiful children I already have. I realize that it may just be God's plan for us to have those three and no more, and I'm OK with that.
But that doesn't take away the longing, or the frustration, or the sadness. It doesn't take away the sting when yet another friend announces her pregnancy and posts her positive pregnancy test as her default picture on Facebook.
I've seen enough negative tests in the past nine months to make anyone want to cry.
When my brother-in-law picked up his daughter from my house the other day, we were talking about the kids I keep (besides my own), and he said, "Did it ever occur to you that maybe there is a reason you guys haven't been able to have any more?"
I laughed it off with the response, "Because I'd go crazy?"
I know what he meant...that I was able to care for my nephews and niece, to have the energy and time to keep up with them, because I didn't have any little ones of my own around.
But honestly, that question, totally innocent as it was, stung. The reason we don't have any more is so that I can take care of other people's kids? I love my nephews and niece, but that is not the same as having your own. The reason I don't have any more is for what? Other people's convenience?
I find myself fighting back a growing seed of bitterness. I ask why, God? Why don't we get pregnant?
But I find that what bothers me most is not that we're not getting pregnant, instead it's that we're not...but all these other people are!
Oh, well, as you get older, you become less fertile, people say. But women older than me are pregnant!
Oh, well, if you're overweight, it affects your fertility, people say. But women far more overweight than me are pregnant!
Oh, well, this, and oh, well, that....and still people who should logically be less fertile ARE PREGNANT!
And then, oh, God, I know it's wrong of me, but sometimes I can't help thinking...But God! We're good parents!! I'm a good mom, Tony's a good dad! We raise our children the way the Bible commands, we teach and train them, we love and cherish them, we discipline them, we bake cookies and read stories and go to interesting places with them. We take care of them when they're sick and put Band-Aids on their cuts. We're good parents! Why is it that these parents who are on the verge of ruining the children they already have get to have even more kids when we, who are trying so hard to raise our children the way God says, don't?
Now, please, don't get me wrong, I am not talking about any one specific mom or set of parents here. But in general, all over the world, all through society, horrible parents are having more children and we keep on not getting pregnant!
I don't want anyone to think this is a pity blog, because it's not. I am simply expressing the fact that I am coming to a realization of just how much this can affect a woman, how deep the wounds can go, totally unintentional wounds. I don't mean that I want my pregnant friends to stop talking about their pregnancies or putting up their pics, I just mean that WOW, I am so affected by this in a way I never imagined.
A thought did occur to me today as I was verging on feeling sorry for myself along the lines of how come we're good parents and don't get pregnant while these other people do, and it was like God said to me, "How good a parent were you after the first one? How about the second one? How many did it take before you could truly say you were raising your children as I command? How many did it take before you really started raising them in a godly way?"
Ugh. Oof. Ouch.
Yeah, that would be...umm....after the third one came along.
Not that I was bad parent for the first two, but it was only after Jake came along, after I stopped working and started homeschooling, that I truly began to seek out God's will in the raising of my children.
I'm sure there were plenty of mothers out there before that who could have looked down on me and my parenting tactics. I'm sure there still are some.
I looked up Hannah's story the other day, you know, the one in 1 Samuel:
There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.
Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on a chair by the doorpost of the LORD's temple. In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD. And she made a vow, saying, "O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head."
As she kept on praying to the LORD, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, "How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine."
"Not so, my lord," Hannah replied, "I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the LORD. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief."
Eli answered, "Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him."
She said, "May your servant find favor in your eyes." Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.
Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the LORD and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah lay with Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her. So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, "Because I asked the LORD for him."
(1 Samuel 1:1-2, 9-20)
I sat back and thought about that story, and I thought, what would Hannah's prayer be like today? I recognize and relate to that anguish and grief she felt, I too cry out from the depths of my soul. Hannah made a promise to God, that if He would bless her with a child, she would give that child back to the Lord. I wonder what that would mean in today's world. We already live with the attitude of giving our children back to God, of knowing that they are really His, not ours, loaned to us for a time to raise up in the "nurture and admonition of the Lord". So what would it mean, exactly, to pray Hannah's prayer today? Would it mean simply vowing to continue raising our children in God's way, or would it involve something more? What could that something more be?
If the three children we already have are all God intends us to have, I can live with that, I really can. It's the not knowing that kills me. It's the wondering if there is something keeping that blessing from us (and I don't mean anything physically, I mean spiritually). Is there something in my life that needs to change in order for God to bless us with another child? Is it simply not meant to be, or is it just not meant to be right now?
Whatever happens, I love the children I already have and they are enough, if God intends it that way. I fight against the bitterness and in spite of it, I am truly happy for my friends who are blessed with more. I'm just...jealous, I guess, and a little sad.